Revisiting Growth Street’s SME lending campaign

It’s now over 18 months since Growth Street submitted a proposal to the Treasury arguing that finance providers should clearly display the rates they offer to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and our campaign to reinvent small business lending, #APR4SMEs, was born!

 A few months on, in May 2016, we were pleased to see that the Competition and Markets Authority included a measure “requiring all lenders that provide unsecured loans and overdrafts to SMEs to display on their websites rates showing the costs of these products up to the value of £25,000” in its package of recommendations for the SME banking sector. This was a step forward, and a validation of Growth Street’s efforts.

However, our feeling was that the CMA’s ruling didn’t go far enough. James Sherwin-Smith, Growth Street’s former CEO, called the news “a disappointment, as it only covers small, unsecured loans, and website marketing”. While we acknowledged the importance of their suggestions, it was clear that the CMA could have gone further.

We’ve now seen these regulations put into practice: as of August 2nd 2017, firms providing unsecured loans up to £25,000 “will have to publish and clearly display the rates they will charge for doing so”, according to the CMA’s Adam Land. Small business lending has clearly taken a turn for the better.

Interestingly, the CMA goes on to say: “If anything, we think small businesses face greater problems than personal current account holders - not least the lack of transparency of information on offer.” This attitude suggests that official bodies are not finished with their investigations yet.

Despite this early promise, there are still battles to be fought, not least in making sure that SME voices continue to be heard in this debate. The FCA’s attitude to the small businesses it consulted with when it reviewed the provision of finance to SMEs in late 2015 is a case in point. As James Sherwin-Smith suggests in a blog post entitled ‘500 days of tumbleweed’, “no public update has been published by the FCA [...] since their review was launched”. The contributions of the UK’s small businesses are going to be vital if future regulation and legislation is to be truly impactful. 

Although we can’t tell what’s around the corner for the UK SME ecosystem, recent changes are welcomed and we remain excited about what’s to come for small businesses. At Growth Street, we’re going to continue doing what we do best: providing SMEs with the tools to grow. Get in touch with us at hello@growthstreet.co.uk if you’re interested in seeing what we’ve got to offer.

Written on in News
Chief Executive Officer